1 Corinthians 2:13 “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
It ought to be obvious to all who read the Bible, or who know anything about Christianity, that the word of God is the main tool in the Holy Spirit’s tool box. How did Paul go about his work of converting people to Christianity? God did some miracles through Paul, but we don’t hear all that much about them. Paul was a generous man, but his acts of charity aren’t the focus of his missionary journeys. “This is what we speak” he says, referring to what God has freely given us. He expresses “spiritual truths in spiritual words.” Paul’s ministry was a ministry of the word.
And that fits the focus of the whole New Testament. Jesus sent his disciples to preach the Gospel to all creation. He told them to go and make disciples by baptizing and by teaching. He told his disciples that they would be his witnesses, and witnesses tell others what they have seen. Preach, teach, baptize, tell–all these require using God’s word. If the Spirit is the one who opens our hearts to believe in God’s grace, it is obvious that Jesus expected the Spirit to be present where his word was being used.
But not just any appealing words will do. Paul says that he does not use words “taught us by human wisdom.” Paul’s mission work was not slick marketing. He didn’t imitate the popular philosophies of his day or try to make the Christian message compatible with Greek science and culture. He didn’t try to help the Christian message by bringing these things in from the outside.
We need to be careful in this regard, too. We want to preach the Christian faith in such a way that we show people it is relevant to their lives. But we can go so far in trying to make things “relevant” that we end up changing the message itself. We can’t redefine the Bible’s history to fit modern science. We can’t redefine the Bible’s morals to fit the preferences of our present day. We can’t redefine the message of salvation to fit our neighbor’s “felt-needs.” We can’t redefine Biblical terminology with the language of human psychology. If we do, we will lose both the word and the Spirit who works through it.
What we need are “words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths with spiritual words.” This is a forthright claim of inspiration on Paul’s part. The words he wrote for us were not his own. The Holy Spirit taught them to him. This not only gives us confidence in their absolute truthfulness. It assures us that these words have power.
Aren’t we living proof? Whether the Holy Spirit got his first crack at our hearts in God’s word connected with our baptisms, or whether he first got in by way of the bare words of Scripture, it is the word of God with which he first opened our hearts. We can be confident that the Spirit continues to work where that word is being preached and taught and used today.